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Simulating drifting fish aggregating device trajectories to identify potential interactions with endangered sea turtles



Lauriane Escalle, Joe Scutt Phillips, Jon Lopez, Jennifer Lynch, Hilario Murua, Sarah-Jeanne Royer, Yonat Swimmer, J Murua, Alex Sen Gupta, Victor Restrepo, Gala Moreno


Purse-seine fishers using drifting fish aggregating devices (dFADs), mainly built with bamboo, plastic buoys, and plastic netting, to aggregate and catch tropical tuna, deploy 46,000–65,000 dFADs per year in the Pacific Ocean. Some of the major concerns associated with this widespread fishing device are potential entanglement of sea turtles and other marine fauna in dFAD netting; marine debris and pollution; and potential ecological damage via stranding on coral reefs, beaches, and other essential habitats for marine fauna. To assess and quantify the potential connectivity (number of dFADs deployed in an area and arriving in another area) between dFAD deployment areas and important oceanic or coastal habitat of critically endangered leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean, we conducted passive-drift Lagrangian experiments with simulated dFAD drift profiles and compared them with known important sea turtle areas. Up to 60% of dFADs from equatorial areas were arriving in essential sea turtle habitats. Connectivity was less when only areas where dFADs are currently deployed were used. Our simulations identified potential regions of dFAD interactions with migration and feeding habitats of the east Pacific leatherback turtle in the tropical southeastern Pacific Ocean; coastal habitats of leatherback and hawksbill in the western Pacific (e.g., archipelagic zones of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands); and foraging habitat of leatherback in a large equatorial area south of Hawaii. Additional research is needed to estimate entanglements of sea turtles with dFADs at sea and to quantify the likely changes in connectivity and distribution of dFADs under new management measures, such as use of alternative nonentangling dFAD designs that biodegrade, or changes in deployment strategies, such as shifting locations.
Conservation Biology


ALDFG, bycatch, entanglement, fish aggregating devices, ghost fishing, Lagrangian models, Pacific Ocean, sea turtles, tropical tuna purse-seine fishery


Escalle, L. , Scutt Phillips, J. , Lopez, J. , Lynch, J. , Murua, H. , Royer, S. , Swimmer, Y. , Murua, J. , Sen Gupta, A. , Restrepo, V. and Moreno, G. (2024), Simulating drifting fish aggregating device trajectories to identify potential interactions with endangered sea turtles, Conservation Biology, [online],, (Accessed June 13, 2024)


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Created May 20, 2024, Updated May 23, 2024